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Gretchen Harshbarger papers

Identifier: IWA0122

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Scope and Contents

The Gretchen Harshbarger papers date from 1900 to 1991 and measure 12.25 linear inches. The papers are arranged in four series: Biographical information, Landscape design, Publications, and Photographs.

The Biographical information series (1906-1991) pertains primarily to the career of Gretchen Harshbarger. The series includes many newspaper clippings about her professional activities as well as information about her family, education, and awards; and correspondence.

The landscape plans that Harshbarger designed for Iowa City clients are included in the Landscape design series (1966-1982). They include plans for churches, the city of Iowa City, many residential properties and a school.

Harshbarger was a prolific writer. The Flower Family Album (1940) and articles she wrote for Household Magazine and other magazines are included in the Publications series (1935-1989), as are advertisements and reviews of McCalls's Garden Book (1968).

The Photographs series (1900-1987) is devoted primarily to those of Harshbarger, her family and friends.


  • Creation: 1900-1991


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Gretchen Fischer Harshbarger was born on March 22, 1906, in Shenandoah, Iowa, the daughter of Frederick and Helen Field Fischer and niece of Henry Field, founder of the Field Seed Company. For twenty-five years her mother broadcast from her home and was known as the radio "Flower Lady of the Midwest." Gretchen Fischer attended Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, and graduated in 1928 from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, with a degree in landscape architecture. She received the Sands Memorial Medal for distinguished achievement and the Sampson Fine Arts Prize for Art Appreciation.

In 1928 Fischer married H. Clay Harshbarger, who later served as chairman of the Department of Speech and Dramatic Arts at the State University of Iowa (now the University of Iowa). They lived in Iowa City and had two sons, Fritz and Karl.

Gretchen Harshbarger was a nationally recognized professional landscape architect, author and photographer. She wrote the McCall's Garden Book (1968) and the Flower Family Album, with her mother, Helen Field, in 1940. She was also the garden editor for Household Magazine and American Homes and president of the Garden Writers' Association of America and the American Hemerocallis Society.

Harshbarger received numerous national and local awards for her contributions to horticulture. In Iowa City she is remembered for her leadership in founding Project GREEN (Grow to Reach Environmental Excellence Now), a group devoted to beautifying public spaces. Harshbarger died in Iowa City in 1989.


12.25 linear inches

Language of Materials



Landscape architect, author and photographer.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 281) were donated by Fritz Harshbarger. Additional material donated by Ruth and Sam Becker (donor no. 186) in 1997.

Special Collections staff and Natalie S. Brody, 1995.
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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)